Finding Your Way Through A Tense Election Year

There are so many things I would like to write about the upcoming elections. Suffice it to say this election poses for our consideration very different candidates with differing outlooks and strategies for their leadership. Hopefully we can plow through the chatter of the 24-hour news cycle which continues to over-report and make news out of non-newsworthy matters, leaving little time for serious reporting about the candidates and their positions. Of course, we should all take time to vote, but we should also take the time to understand the candidates and their positions. And that is the same for our state representatives (or other local races) through your choice for President of the United States.

To help promote understanding about candidates in the highly competitive PA 7th Congressional District (formerly held by Charlie Dent), the Jewish Federation will be hosting a candidates’ forum on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. at the JCC of the Lehigh Valley. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates.

Just over a week later, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, the Jewish Federation will co-sponsor with Congregation Brith Sholom a program featuring polling expert Dr. Chris Borick of Muhlenberg College. Borick will look at the trends and likely outcomes of the upcoming election. The program will take place at Brith Sholom beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Elections also bring about questions about Federation accepting paid political advertisements in HAKOL. True, HAKOL was not always accepting of such advertisements. About 14 years ago the HAKOL Editorial Board reviewed the issue and decided to accept paid political advertising. 

As a charitable nonprofit organization, we act in accordance with IRS guidelines as well as the Federal Election Commission regulations. Although the Federation must remain politically neutral, we are not prohibited from contact with politics or politicians. That’s why our Community Relations Council sponsors political candidate forums, organizes missions to Washington and Harrisburg to meet with our legislators and mounts letter writing campaigns on issues of concern to the Jewish community. We are allowed to express positions on particular issues before our elected officials, but we are not allowed to endorse any candidates.

That decision rests with you and is done so – hopefully – out of a process of educating yourself on the candidates and their positions, and then voting.

It is important for Jewish Americans, as individuals and as a community, to remain actively engaged in political discourse. Carolyn Katwan, then HAKOL editor and Federation assistant executive director, wrote in a February 2008 HAKOL column: “American Jews have exercised their right to vote enthusiastically and in percentages far greater than the national average. Our participation has served us well – on issues from Israel to civil rights to Soviet Jewry – and will continue to do so if we remain active, informed, engaged and accessible. The fact that candidates view our vote as important and significant demonstrates the role of the Jewish community in today’s electoral process.” Paid political advertising is an important way for the Jewish community to promote its accessibility to political candidates and their parties.

Over the years, our HAKOL Editorial Board and Jewish Federation Board of Directors have reaffirmed our policy to accept political advertising in HAKOL. This practice is mirrored in the vast majority of Jewish community newspapers sponsored by their Jewish federations. In accordance with Federal regulations, our advertising policies offer equal access to all candidates. The presence of an advertisement does not represent an endorsement of a candidate; likewise the absence of an ad from a candidate does not reflect a position by HAKOL or the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley on that candidate. 

If the political prognosticators are correct, Pennsylvania – and the Lehigh Valley – will be important to the outcomes of the November elections. Our Jewish community stands at the heart of the region and should take the time to educate ourselves. The candidates are seeking our attention and seeking our votes. Let’s wholeheartedly participate in the American political process as a knowledgeable and educated electorate. When that occurs, the best candidates shall surely win.

I am Mark Goldstein, and I approve of this message.



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